A Day with Wilbur Robinson

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No need to knock, just step right in. You're just in time to two-step with Grandfather Robinson and his dancing frog band. Cousin Laszlo is demonstrating his new antigravity device. And Uncle Art's flying saucer is parked out back.

It seems like all the Robinson relatives are here, so be prepared. And keep your head down...Uncle Gaston is testing out the family cannon.

Author Biography: William Joyce, author-artist of Rolie Polie Olie lives in ...

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William Joyce NY 1990 Very Good First Edition Very Good in Very Good jacket Hardcopy X-library book with usual library markings, mylar covered DJ, no other markings, creases, ... rips, tears or writing to book. While spending the day in the Robinson household, Wilbur's best friend joins in the search for Grandfather Robinson's missing false teeth and meets one wacky relative after another. Read more Show Less

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Overview

No need to knock, just step right in. You're just in time to two-step with Grandfather Robinson and his dancing frog band. Cousin Laszlo is demonstrating his new antigravity device. And Uncle Art's flying saucer is parked out back.

It seems like all the Robinson relatives are here, so be prepared. And keep your head down...Uncle Gaston is testing out the family cannon.

Author Biography: William Joyce, author-artist of Rolie Polie Olie lives in Shreveport, Louisiana, with his lovely wife, Elizabeth, and their children, Jack and Mary Katherine. They also have a dachshund named Rose. Here Mr.Joyce talks about his collection of children's books, his influences in creating them, and even the Rolie Polie family!

Q: What's new and different about Rolie Polie Olie?
A: Everything in Rolie Polie Olie is a robot or a machine. Beds, cars, kitchen appliances, and even the toilet have a personality. But rather than it seeming cold and remote, as computer animation can often feel, I wanted to see if we could make a robot world that felt warm and kind; an almost old-fashioned version of what the future could be. I wanted to take the cutting edge of cybertechnology and create something that felt as though it was done in the 1930s. It's sort of like Leave It to Beaver meets The Matrixx or Blade Runner.

Q: How does the Emmy Award-winning animated TV show Rolie Polie Olie relate to the book?
A: I had been working on a book about robots when I was approached to do a computer-animated television series. Previously, I had worked on Toy Story, which was an amazing experience, so I decided to merge my robot paintings with the computer — to paint with the computer.

I had never collaborated on anything visual before, but with the help of 300 artists and technicians on 3 different continents, I was able to realize this vision. I was able to create an entire 3-D robot universe without ever leaving my desk in Shreveport, Louisiana. My sketches, stories, and songs traveled from my home to Toronto, Paris, and Ho Chi Minh City. I would design every antenna, tree, and doorknob, and the computer would then render my drawings. We didn't know if it would work, but here we are with an Emmy Award-winning television show on the Disney channel and two beautiful picture books.

Q: What was your inspiration for Rolie Polie Olie?
A: The Rolie Polie family is a caricature of my own family, even down to the family dog!

I wanted to evoke the blithe, optimistic feeling of an old Mickey Mouse cartoon or The Little Rascals. Some kind of "Once upon a time" Americana in the robot world, or a "future that never was." The Polie family harks back to what we all wanted as kids; everything is uncomplicated and magically naive. This is a bright and shiny sun-drenched world, moving and swaying to its own catchy oom-pa-pa beat. Everything is round, everything is alive, everyone does the rumba dance.

Q: In your latest picture book, Snowie Rolie, you bring a winter wonderland to Robot Land. Tell us about your new character, Mr. Snowie.
A: I thought that it would be great if a snowman could really come to life . . . and on this robot planet where everything is living, naturally a snowman would have to be alive too!

When you make a snowman, you put so much effort and personality into something that is going to melt. It is a very poignant process, for no matter what you do, soon you will still have to let go and say good-bye. In Snowie Rolie, I wanted to actually save a snowman.

Q: What is the theme of Snowie Rolie?
A: Snowie Rolie is about how your life can change in a single day. Olie and Zowie wish for snow in the beginning of the book, but in the end they have gained a friend. They have learned so much about friendship and farewells, all in the course of one miraculous, snowy day.

Q: Now another one of your classic picture books, George Shrinks, has a new animated TV series on PBS. Where did the idea for George come from?
A: Ever since I was a little kid, I have loved stories about people who were the wrong size. King Kong was too big for everything, and Stuart Little was way too small. One day I found some of my old toys in a box. Mixed up with all the dinosaurs and army men was a little airplane that had a tiny pilot, and that got me thinking.

What if a boy named George shrank one day while his parents were away? What would he do? Would it be fun? Would it be scary? What would he eat?

So that's what I made George Shrinks about — how neat it would be if, just for one day, you were the same size as your toys. And of course I had George fly in that toy airplane.

Q: What influences you as an artist and author?
A: I'm a first-generation TV brat. My brain was welded to the solid-state circuitry of our RCA Viewmaster black-and-white television set. Every day and night I saw all the past, present, and future pulp the tube had to offer. Plus there were comic strips, my family, and other illustrators.

George Shrinks is King Kong in reverse. Nicholas Cricket is Casablanca with bugs. In The Leaf Men and Bently & egg the characters are as dashing and heroic as Robin Hood. In Santa Calls there are elements of The Wizard of Oz, Davy Crockett, The Lone Ranger, Rin-Tin-Tin, Little Orphan Annie, Jules Verne, and the Warner Brothers cartoons. For Dinosaur Bob I thought about Paul Bunyan and Casey at the Bat. Not only does a dinosaur become the family pet, but he also plays baseball and the trumpet, and dances the hokey-pokey. A Day With Wilbur Robinson is a combination of Dr. Doolittle, The Absent-Minded Professor, Invaders from Mars, and an exaggerated version of my own childhood.

Q: How does your childhood show up in your picture books?
A: I was raised by a congenial horde of southern screwballs. We had artists, bongo players, photographers, opera singers, actors, and geologists in our family. Everyone over fifty had dentures, which were always being mixed up or misplaced. We sometimes played shuffleboard with them. My grandfather had the added bonus of a glass eye that he swore could see even when outside his head. I had an uncle who convinced me he was from another planet. With a household like that, writing and illustrating came easily to me.

While spending the day in the Robinson household, Wilbur's best friend joins in the search for Grandfather Robinson's missing false teeth and meets one wacky relative after another.

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Editorial Reviews

Washington Post
... this may be the best picture book of the year ...
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Dinosaur Bob fans should rejoice: in his latest work, Joyce pulls out all the stops and introduces the weirdest family since his Lazardo clan. A young narrator, going to see his best friend Wilbur, remarks, ``His house is the greatest place to visit.'' Readers soon see why. Wilbur's large household includes an aunt whose train set is life-sized, an uncle who shares his ``deep thoughts'' ``Mississippi spelled with o 's . . . would be Mossossoppo !'' and a grandfather who trains a dancing frog band. There's not much in the way of formal plot here--save a slight mystery involving Grandfather's missing false teeth--but Joyce's wonderfully strange paintings abound with hilarious, surprising details and leave the impression that a lot has happened. A visit to the Robinsons' is a bit overwhelming as the narrator says, ``I was kind of sad to leave, but I was ready to go home for a while'', but it's a trip children will want to make again and again. Ages 4-8. Sept.
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
Who stole Grandfather's teeth? Was it Uncle Gaston, the cannon sitter, Carl, the family's robot, Uncle Judlow wearing his brain augmentor, or Cousin Laslo with his anti-gravity device? Spend A Day with Wilber Robinson and his weird, non-conformist family to find out where Grandfather's teeth can be. Author/illustrator William Joyce claims this is a thickly disguised account of his own childhood. 1993 (orig.
Children's Literature - Melissa J. Rickey
Come meet William Robin's retro, zany, and futuristic family. Grandfather's false teeth are missing, and so is grandfather. A homesick uncle arrives from his distant planet. The time machine is stuck in the Mesozoic period, and dinosaurs are swimming in the pool. And this is just the beginning of the day. The unnamed narrator, a good friend of William Robinson's, recounts the events of his visit and overnight stay at the Robinson family home. The two boys, on a search for Grandfather's teeth, meet up with aunts, uncles, parents, siblings, artifacts, antigravity devices, train sets, and creatures that loom large and dark in the otherwise realistic/retro and vibrant illustrations. After dinner, family and friends gather to listen to Mrs. Robinson read. A surprising encounter with a frog leads to our narrator's discovery of Grandfather's teeth, a cause for celebration and a spontaneous pillow fight. Eventually all retire: "...we floated across the lawn and into a tree with the help of Cousin Laszlo's antigravity device.... Wilbur and I stayed up late into the night while Uncle Art told stories about his adventures in outer space, as the frogs played softly on their violins." The next morning, William Robinson apologizes to his friend for "such a dull day." But for his friend, a return to some semblance of normalcy is in order, along with the anticipation of future visits.
School Library Journal
The Robinson's house is not like anyone else's because Wilbur's family is not like any other. The slim plot that involves Wilbur and his visiting friend looking for Grandfather's lost false teeth is just a device to introduce the wonderfully weird family members. Most of the jokes are only in the pictures, while the restrained, slightly tongue-in-cheek text provides a satisfying contrast. The text states that Aunt Billie is playing with her train set, Cousin Pete is walking the cats, and Uncle Art has just arrived from abroad, but the trains are shown as full sized, the cats are tigers, and Uncle Art is stepping out of a flying saucer. The illustrative style is reminiscent in both color and form of 1940s advertising art. Many details such as hairstyles, clothing, and even a robot seem influenced by that period. In keeping with the advertising look, the layout is open and spacious. Although the figures often appear frozen in a pose, even when gesticulating, and the two boys are mainly passive observers except in a close-up of a wild pillow fight, the imaginative details and the changing perspectives keep the pictures interesting. Children may not realize that the dancing frogs are watching Fred Astaire movies or that sister has a model of the Empire State building for a headdress--these jokes are for adults--but they will enjoy the imaginative play and delight in filling in the text. --Karen James, Louisville Free Public Library, KY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060229689
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/1/1990
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.34 (w) x 10.08 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Meet the Author

William Joyce

William Joyce lives in Shreveport, Louisiana, with his lovely wife, Elizabeth, and their children, Mary Katherine and Jack. They also have a dachshund named Rose and something else named Rex. Mr. Joyce has produced two animated television shows based on his books: Rolie Polie Olie and George Shrinks. He also produced and designed the animated feature film Robots. Every once in a while he does a cover for The New Yorker. His alarmingly optimistic picture books include Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo, Santa Calls, The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs, and Bently & Egg.He is currently futzing around on several books and stories that embrace the alleged healing power of heroically scaled silliness.

William Joyce lives in Shreveport, Louisiana, with his lovely wife, Elizabeth, and their children, Mary Katherine and Jack. They also have a dachshund named Rose and something else named Rex. Mr. Joyce has produced two animated television shows based on his books: Rolie Polie Olie and George Shrinks. He also produced and designed the animated feature film Robots. Every once in a while he does a cover for The New Yorker. His alarmingly optimistic picture books include Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo, Santa Calls, The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs, and Bently & Egg.He is currently futzing around on several books and stories that embrace the alleged healing power of heroically scaled silliness.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2006

    This is the coolest book that has ever been.

    This book changed my life. Winnie the Pooh was great, Where the Wild Things Are, a monument. This book should win the first Nobel Prize for the happiest thing that has ever been in print. It is like a Fred Astaire movie. It is like Philadelphia Story. It's like The Great Gatsby. It is like King Kong all in 40 delirious pages.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted March 29, 2012

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    Posted April 19, 2011

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